What are the Benefits of Latex Mattresses?
Pressure relief and durability

Latex mattresses share many of the benefits of memory foam, particularly in terms of pressure relief.

Latex, however, lacks the slow response and recovery time that characterizes memory foam. For those who dislike these aspects of memory foam, whether due to the warmth of the mattress, difficulty in changing positions or otherwise, latex is a very compelling alternative.

Fans of latex praise its additional benefits: well-balanced support, long lifespan (which in some cases can exceed 20 years) and allergen resistance. Critics cite challenges in finding the perfect combination of comfort and support, as well as the somewhat rubbery smell of latex mattresses (at least when new).

Can You Be Allergic to Latex Mattresses?

Less than 1% of people experience an allergy to latex -- or rather, to the proteins in the sap of rubber trees from which natural latex is made. During the manufacturing process for latex foam, most of these proteins are washed away.

The most common latex allergy is a 'contact' allergy, meaning physically touching latex, which can cause itchy skin and eyes, runny nose and perhaps a rash. Latex beds are enclosed in a cover, then are covered in sheets at home, so direct contact is unlikely.

We don't offer medical advice or counseling in any way, so it would certainly be smart for anyone with latex allergy concerns to check with a doctor before purchasing a latex mattress. In terms of how (or whether) a latex mattress will affect someone with a latex allergy, this will vary a lot depending on the severity of the allergy. Certainly, anyone that experiences breathing difficulty or whose latex allergy symptoms can be triggered simply by being in a room with latex should not be considering a latex mattress. That said, it should be noted that many people who suffer from either contact dermatitis or even latex allergies don't have any problems sleeping on a latex mattress.

Keep in mind that none of this applies to synthetic latex, which contains no rubber sap at all.

Types of Latex

Latex mattresses can be made from either natural or synthetic latex, or most commonly, a blend of the two. Adding to the confusion, manufacturers are allowed to call a latex "natural" even if it contains some synthetic latex. For example, IKEA's Mausund natural latex is made from 85% latex made from rubber sap, and 15% synthetic. To the naked eye, all of these latex types look very similar.

All types of latex are made in the same way: pouring liquid latex into a mold, followed by a curing process. And latex, whether natural or synthetic or somewhere in between, can have similar support, softness, and pressure-relieving qualities. Natural latex is also thought to be excellent at retaining its resiliency over time, making it a long-lasting mattress material.

Some latex also includes "fillers," tiny particles of clay or other materials that are mixed into the foam, making the resulting latex less costly, but also stiffer and less durable. The term "pure latex" typically refers to latex that does not include fillers, and can be applied to either synthetic or natural latex. Most higher-quality latex mattresses use pure latex.

What Does Natural Latex Mean?

True natural latex is produced from the sap of rubber trees. It's a natural product, and is biodegradable. Sap is sustainably harvested from rubber trees, collected in much the same way as maple sap for maple syrup. The trees can be organic (resulting in organic latex) or conventionally grown. Natural latex has inherent resistance to bacteria, mold, and dust mites, and is one of the "greenest" mattress materials you can find.

The downside? Cost. 100% natural latex mattresses, like the Zenhaven mattress and the Spindle bed start at about $1,600 for a queen size. It's possible to find 100% natural organic latex mattresses, but they are less common and are expensive, starting at around $3,000.

Another option is a hybrid mattress, like the Nest Hybrid Latex mattress and the Avocado Green, which combines a natural latex comfort layer with a pocketed-coil support core.

Read more about all-natural latex

Is Synthetic Latex Bad?

Synthetic latex is made through a chemical process using petroleum-based materials instead of rubber sap. Otherwise, it's made in much the same way as natural latex and shares many of the same physical properties, but often has a slightly stiffer feel and is thought by some to better maintain its resiliency over a very long period of time.

Synthetic latex, as you would expect, is less costly than natural latex, but of course lacks its environmentally friendly aspects. In general, if a manufacturer doesn't say its latex is natural, you're likely getting synthetic latex or a blend.

Eight Sleep is one manufacturer using synthetic latex in some of its mattresses (the company is very clear that its latex is synthetic).

Read more about synthetic latex

What is Blended Latex?

Blends of natural and synthetic latex generally aim to capture the advantages of both natural and synthetic latex. Mattress manufacturers using blended latex often claim that it combines the elasticity of natural latex with the consistent quality and durability of synthetic latex. If a company doesn't say its latex is "all natural" but still called it "natural," it's likely a blend of some kind.

If your interest is gaining the comfort properties of latex, and not necessarily its sustainability / environmentally friendly aspects, then synthetic or a blended latex might suit your needs at a lower cost than all natural.

Read more about the pros and cons of blended latex

How is a Latex Mattress Made?

Beds made of all latex tend to be relatively simple in their construction. Typically, a latex mattress consists of anywhere from 1 to 4 layers, with the bottom layer (known as the "core") being the firmest, and each layer above getting progressively softer. The core, which provides the underlying support for the mattress, tends to be about 5"  to 6" thick and is typically made from either relatively dense latex (in high-quality latex mattresses) or polyurethane foam. The upper layers, also known as the "comfort" layers, are designed to give the bed a softer feel and are most often made from either softer latex.

Latex typically contains numerous "pincore holes" — deep, cylindrical holes spread throughout the mattress to help soften its feel. The holes are formed by the mold the liquid latex is poured into.

Larger pincore (or pin core) holes create a softer feel to the latex. Some manufacturers place different-sized holes in different parts of the mattress in order to offer different zones of support and comfort for the various parts of the body.

Below: Liquid latex being poured into a mold for a Zenhaven mattress

There are two different production processes used to make latex mattresses. Either process can be used to make natural latex foam, synthetic latex, or blended latex.

The older, more established process (dating back over 75 years) is known as Dunlop, while the newer, more involved (and more expensive) process is known as Talalay.

In the Dunlop process, liquid latex is "whipped" with air until it becomes wet foam, at which time it is poured into a mold, hardened, and vulcanized. In the Talalay process, the wet latex foam is similarly poured into a mold, but extra room is left at the top of the mold. Once the mold is sealed, air is vacuumed out of the mold, causing the foam to expand such that it fills the empty space inside the mold. The mold is then frozen and quickly vulcanized, locking in the expanded structure of the foam.

Generally, Talalay latex tends to be softer and less dense, while Dunlop latex tends to be firmer and heavier, but the difference between them isn't drastic. Check out our article on Talalay vs Dunlop Latex for more on the subtle differences.

Latex Mattress Brands

Unlike some other types of beds, the latex mattress market is not dominated by a single brand. To find the right latex mattress brand for you, please browse our extensive list of online mattress models or search the mattresses available at stores in your area — on either page, use the expanded filters in order to narrow the list to only latex mattresses).

Also, check our expert, in-depth reviews of the following latex mattresses:

Find the Right Bed

Not sure which type of bed to buy? Answer a few questions to see good matches for you with GoodBed's unbiased, personalized results.

Let's start… Select your preferred sleeping position:
This is awesome. Now I feel equipped to walk in somewhere and say with certainty, "This is exactly what I'm looking for."
— Sara in Phoenix, AZ

SHARE THIS PAGE
What size of bed are you looking for?

Not sure? Go to Mattress Size Guide